Coronavirus: School closures could extend to April or May, Taoiseach says

Leaving and Junior Cert oral and practical exams were cancelled on Thursday due to pandemic

School closures could be extended into April or May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

School closures could be extended into April or May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

School closures could be extended into April or May to combat the spread of coronavirus, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Republic has risen to 557 in the 20 days since the first known case was diagnosed in the country on February 29th. There were 191 new test-positive cases on Thursday, up from 74 the previous day.

Speaking at a parliamentary party teleconference on Thursday night, Mr Varadkar said it could take between five and 10 days before the effects of social distancing are seen on figures of new confirmed cases.

Mr Varadkar also advised Fine Gael TDs the closure of schools could be extended into April or May.

The Taoiseach announced on Thursday last week that schools, colleges and childcare facilities are to be closed until March 29th.

The move was taken to reduce socialising, encourage social distancing and slow down the spread of the virus.

However, health authorities have acknowledged the situation is not expected to improve by the end of this month, and that the pandemic could continue for a number of months after that date.

On Thursday, Minister for Education Joe McHugh announced the Leaving and Junior Cert oral and practical exams had been cancelled and each student would receive 100 per cent in those components.

The exams were due to begin on Monday, 23rd of March.

Mr McHugh said his department was working on the assumption the Leaving Cert written exams would still go ahead as planned.

No decision has been made in relation to the Junior Cert exams, according to Mr McHugh, and “all contingencies” were being looked at.

One contingency plan being examined by officials is cancelling or deferring the Junior Cert to provide extra space in exam centres to hold the Leaving Cert. However, Mr McHugh said no decisions had been made.

Most primary schools are due to break for summer at the end of June, while most secondary school students finish for the summer at the end of May or beginning of June.

The Junior and Leaving Cert exams are scheduled to begin on June 3rd, 2020.